TERRE HAUTE —
We are the Wabash.
Such a statement isn’t a nostalgic twist on Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie crooning “We Are The World” a generation ago.
This is science.
With rare January sunshine gleaming on the Wabash outside, organizers of the 2013 Year of the River initiative unveiled a yearlong celebration of the famed waterway that gives local residents myriad opportunities to recreate, learn and simply enjoy themselves along its banks. Plans include something for everyone. Plays. Prayers. Hikes. Excursions. Concerts. Art exhibits. Storytelling. Picnics. Motorists on highways bisecting Terre Haute will see billboards promoting the river activities.
“Lots of people will learn about Terre Haute and the Wabash River,” said Mary Kramer, executive director of Art Spaces, co-organizer of the project with Jon Robeson, executive director of Arts Illiana, and Steve Letsinger, art curator and professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. The trio, and Mayor Duke Bennett, described the breadth and potential of the Year of the River effort at a Wednesday morning kickoff news conference in the Girl Scouts Building adjacent to Fairbanks Park.
There is one primary lesson all local residents should receive — even if they choose not to experience any of the dozens of events scheduled this year by more than 75 participating outdoors, arts, education and environmental organizations.
We all contribute to the Wabash. Literally.
Approximately 75 percent of river pollution comes from “non-point-source” pollutants. A point source pollutant, explained Angie Tilton of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Healthy Rivers Initiative, would include those large pipes spilling wastewater from cities or industries into the river. Someone kayaking on the river would “point” to those outlets. As visually obvious as they are, point-source pollutants aren’t the dominant culprit.
It’s us. Yes, we are the Wabash.
Folks who wash their cars in paved driveways near a street-side storm sewer contribute. So do those who park a car with a chronic oil leak in a similar driveway. Or someone who tosses trash or cigarette butts on a street near a storm sewer. Or a homeowner who uses salt to melt ice on a driveway or sidewalk. Or somebody who dumps household chemicals near the curb or in the yard. Or a dog owner who leaves the critter’s poop near the roadway. Or a landowner who mows the lawn and empties the grass clippings, tainted by fertilizers, insecticides and weed-killers, by the storm sewer.
“All of that drains into the Wabash River,” Tilton said.
“As far as pollution goes, with the Wabash River,” she added, “everybody contributes.”
With the spotlight shining on it, thanks to the Year of the River, 2013 would be the ideal moment for local people to think twice about their contributions to the community’s most significant natural resource. For years, college students and outdoors groups have routinely rolled up their sleeves to haul away mattresses, meth-lab components, tires and garbage dumped by humans on the conveniently secluded banks of the river and its tributaries. In the year ahead, we could give those students and activists a hand by the less-strenuous task of simply cleaning up our own acts.
Tilton offered a few ideas.
Wash your car in your yard, instead of the driveway. The grass and soil filters the detergents and cleaning agents. Clean up after your dog and put its waste in a trash bag, so the waste can be disposed in the landfill, she said. Get the oil leak in your car fixed. Shovel the snow from your sidewalk or driveway, or get a neighbor to do it. Properly dispose of household chemicals and old motor oil.
Meanwhile, check the 2013 Year of the River events calendar (distributed through the Tribune-Star in December and available at the newspaper offices) or the project’s website www.2013yearof
theriver.com, and participate in one or several of the activities. Find an outdoors group of kayakers or canoeists, or contact Joe Hoopingarner’s Airboats, and actually get “on” the river. (Stick with skilled, safety-minded folks if you do so.)
Then, when you encounter the Wabash — up close, or through the scenic backdrop of Fairbanks Park or Merom Bluffs — you’ll know you played a role in making the river better, not worse. You will have taken action.
That’s what local Girl Scouts are doing. At Wednesday’s news conference, Girl Scouts leaders displayed an “enviroscape” — a contoured panoramic miniature community, depicting a farm, a factory, a subdivision, bridges, roads, storm sewers and, finally, the river. The device gives the kids a visual idea of how their daily behaviors affect the Wabash. Using colorings (or, sometimes, Kool-Aid) for the pollution sources, the girls then spray clean water (like rain) on the model, watching it all flow toward the river.
Diana Keely, director of programs for the Girls Scouts, and Alicia Martin, the program development manager, explained how the replica neighborhood educates the Scouts — and their parents — about pollution.
“When a kid visualizes throwing trash out the car window, they don’t realize how that’s going to get all the way down in [the water],” Keely said.
“It opens their eyes,” she said of the Scouts, as young as age 6. They’re urged to “take action,” Martin said.
In this Year of the River, we grownups should do the same thing. Enjoy, view, visit, clean up, and, yes, be the river.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or mark.bennett@
TERRE HAUTE —
We are the Wabash.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
Lent meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute
Initially, the concept might conjure images of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jumping out of an airplane or sitting atop the Pyramids. Instead, think “Lent Meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute.”
MARK BENNETT: Never truer: Knowledge vital to narrowing ‘skills gap’
The pillar at the gates of Faber College in the movie “Animal House” bore a wise motto, despite its tongue-in-cheek intent …
MARK BENNETT: Great-niece to re-enact Paul Dresser’s musical legacy in Terre Haute show
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
Often, the only keepers of their legacies are family and friends, who tell and retell their stories, generation to generation.
For Paul Dresser, his fame burned strong enough as a turn-of-the-century, million-seller songwriter to preserve bits of his public notoriety.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember